Plain-Spoken Ethel

The widow of business magnate Kemper Marley provided writer his favorite interview

We had been conversing for about a half-hour.
"Mrs. Marley," I told her, recalling Roer's admonitions, "I don't want to take too much of your time."

"Son, I'll tell you when I'm getting tired," she said, very sweetly. "I'm enjoying this."

She spoke of the expansive Marley land holdings in southern Arizona--"The ranch," she called it--where she was to go in a few days. "I'm the only one who really cares about it anymore. But I'm not as sharp as I used to be."

I told her she seemed sharp as a tack.
"I don't know about that. I think I'm losing it sometimes. I can remember riding a horse back in 1930 or something, but don't ask me what I ate for lunch yesterday."

"What did you eat for lunch yesterday?"
"Some vegetable soup and toast."
"How was it?"
"I can't remember." She paused. "I'm just kidding. It was fine."

Finally, I brought up her horrific February 1991 experience as a crime victim who lived to tell the tale. Two men in black clothing got into the gated community and broke into her home, where she was living alone.

The pair covered her with an afghan, then proceeded to rob her of about $250,000 in jewelry and cash. Before the thieves left, they snatched gold bracelets and a watch from her wrists, bruising her badly as they did so.

No one ever was arrested in the heist.
"I don't think they would have tried something like that when Kemp was around," Mrs. Marley said, chuckling. "He would have eaten them alive.

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